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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars


Peru - 25 November, 2001



Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start La Casa de Mi Abuela, Arequipa S1623.574' W07131.932' 2,399 m
Mountain pass (highest point on trip) S1545.156' W07134.925' 4,899 m .
Finish Hotel Posada Chivay, Chivay S1538.045' W07136.146' 3,686 m 155 km

Leg 1 Total:

4,038 km


771 km

Grand Total:

4,809 km


Weather: Partly cloudy, occasional sun and cool.  Late afternoon, mostly cloudy with occasional drizzle and snow flurries.  Cool/cold.



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We spend the morning looking around Arequipa.  We get an early breakfast - a few rolls at a bakery - and then wander the streets.  We check out the main square, this time during day light.  It is Sunday, and the crowd are building.  We go and visit La Compania, a church that was completed in 1698 (a century after construction started).  It is a Jesuit church that was built so solidly that it has withstood the earthquakes that toppled other churches and buildings.  It does look solid with all the large stones used to build it.


At 9 AM we head over to the Monasterio de Santa Catalina.  It is not really a monastery, but rather a convent.  It is not your typical convent - it is huge, covering a whole city block (about 20,000 m) and is virtually a city within a city.  It was founded in1580 and only the daughters of wealthy families were invited to become nuns.  Upon joining, all nuns had to pay a dowry.  The nuns were supposed to leave in poverty and renounce the material world.  In fact, they enjoyed the life that they pretty much had become accustomed to outside the walls of the convent.  Each nun had between one and four servants or slaves.


After about 3 centuries, the pope complained that Santa Catalina was more like a club and sent Sister Josefa Cadena to fix things up.  When she arrived in 1871, she sent all the dowries back to Europe and freed all the slaves and servants and offered them a spot in the convent or they could leave.  The place was shrouded in mystery until it was opened to the public in 1970.  The mayor ordered the convent to comply with city regulations, including installing running water and electricity.  The convent was too poor to do this, so they opened their doors to tourism to raise funds.


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It is an amazing place - you can wander around it for hours.  Most of it is open to the public and they really do not restrict where you can go.  It has been well restored, and they have bright flowers and the many of the rooms are decorated with period furnishings.  It was interesting to check out all the nuns' "cells" - most had a sitting room, a bedroom and a kitchen area.  The rooms were large and must have been quite comfortable in those days.  The rooms were spread out amongst the six streets that exist inside the convent.


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The courtyards were very impressive - large and airy and the colors that everything was painted in were bright reds, blues and yellows.  The confessionals were booths that were built into the outside walls of the church - there was even a bench for the nuns to wait and take their turns.  The kitchen was huge - three rooms, once of which had a well.


Before we really wanted to, we had to step through the exit back into the present time so that we could go to the Museo Santurios Andinos. This is where Juanita, the ice princess is kept.  She is a young maiden, about 13-14 years old that was sacrificed on the summit of Ampato (6,380 meters) over 500 years ago.  We first watched a video and then went into the museum.  They have on display in the first few rooms some of the artifacts found in the tomb - they are very well preserved.  The mummy and tomb were discovered when a nearby active volcano melted the snow cover away.


In the last room, they have two glass cases, each of which contains a mummy at about -18C.  One is Juanita and it is amazing to see the condition she is in after so many years.  The second is another mummy they found nearby, which is still fully covered in its clothing (they have not yet had a chance to examine her in more detail).  While the exhibit is a bit gruesome, it is done in quite a respectful way.  We come away moved and with new found respect for the Inca culture.


Peru01_Chivay_Enroute_3985_Web.jpg (65712 bytes)

After a quick lunch, we head back to the hotel via the main square to pack up and get ready to go.  We spend the afternoon driving up towards Chivay passing through some high mountain passes.  Along the way we see a couple of small herds of vicunia, an Andean type of camel that produces the finest wool (in the Inca times, only nobility could use the wool from this animal).  Along the way, we have some snow flurries.


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We reach a pass that is the highest point that we will reach with the truck on this trip.  The mountain pass is at 4,899 meters and we can feel in our lungs the lack of oxygen at this altitude.  The pass is covered with hundreds of rock cairns that have been built by passing people.  It is good luck to add stones to an existing cairn, or to start to build your own.  It is, however, bad luck if you damage an existing cairns.  We took the opportunity to take a group picture.


An hour later, at 6:30 PM we reach Chivay.  We check into our hotel and then go walk around town.  It is Sunday and a service is going on in the church on the main square.  We stop in for a few minutes - the church is packed.  We have a quick bite to eat (it takes a while to find a place), and then head back to the hotel.


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